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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

"Hitler's War" by Harry Turtledove (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Official Harry Turtledove Website
Order “Hitler's WarHERE
Read FBC Review of The Man with The Iron Heart (quoted on the jacket here)

INTRODUCTION:Harry Turtledove needs no introduction. He is the author that almost single-handedly transformed alternate-history into a thriving sub-genre with the many novels and stories that he publishes each year, which blend together science fiction, fantasy and historical fiction.

After the superb "The Man with the Iron Heart" of last year that speculated on an Iraq-like terrorist resistance in Germany 1945 and inspired
by recent (and not so recent) speculations, Mr. Turtledove turns his hand at another pivotal moment of 20th century - Munich 1938 when supposedly Chamberlain gave in to Hitler rather than fight and tried to hide his failure behind the "Peace with Honor" slogan - moment that is held as the supreme "appeasement" to be avoided at all costs in today's political conversation.

Not shy of controversy, Mr. Turtledove imagines what could have happened, were the war to actually start in 1938 - and let us not forget that as far as historical archives show, Hitler was truly intent on war then and wanted to use the smallest pretext to start it and he was actually annoyed that the allies gave in, while in 1939 when the allies finally stopped giving in, he was more reluctant to start the war for various reasons.

And Mr. Turtledove will show us here a scenario in which Hitler's War happened and that we should try and get all the facts before rushing to judgment...

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: "Hitler's War" is an extraordinary war novel set in an alt-hist in which WW2 starts after Munich with the invasion of Czechoslovakia, that stands at about 500 pages and starts a series that became the most expected Turtledove such in years since the end of the Colonization books.

The book is told from the point of view of regular grunts from all sides as well as two remarkable but very different women and with some unexpected twists but it follows a reasonable course mimicking real history.
The cast is huge and has German, French, Czech, Russian (Soviet more generally), Japanese, British, American, Spanish and International Brigades soldiers, aviators, marines, submariners as well as a Jewish 17 year old girl in Munster and an early middle age well off Philadelphia woman caught on vacation at Marienbad and later relocated to Berlin as a neutral...

Except for the start date and place, there is one more seemingly minor difference with "real history", in so far that the flamboyant Spanish general Sanjurjo leaves his luggage behind and so his plane does not crash and in due course he gets to assume the leadership of the Spanish rebellion instead of the staid, cautious Franco. Since WW II starts in 1938 with the Spanish Civil War still going and the two sides there now being clearly allied with the main combatants, this small change may lead to some unexpectedly big consequences...

Not for the squeamish with war described in all its messiness with gore, flying body parts, fear, sweat, soldiers s..g and p..g on themselves, getting bored, complaining and so on, "Hitler's War" would qualify as realistic war fiction except for the alt-history setting. No generals, strategists and such here, just regular people, mostly men true but not only. So if you like "real war" novels the book is for you.

The ending of the book is great in Spring 1939 covering two crucial events which I would not spoil except that they represent things that did not happen in real history but could have easily happened and are in a sense mirrors to what actually has happened.

Compelling and a page turner the next installment became an asap book


Aspoiu said...

This one sounds very interesting and it would be a huge perspective change - the other WW2 series has a little bit too many generals, lords and strategist...
Considering the previous books, I do have some concerns regarding the ability of Turtledove to build strong "regular people". On the "gore side" I hope that it ain't just a Sven Hassel imitation with an "alternate touch".
... added to my always growing reading list.

Liviu said...

This one has 15-20 "main" characters though some get killed true, but they are relatively distinct - I would not say that there is any character that takes over the book, but you get to care about most, including the German, Japanese or Soviet ones, though the French and the Czech that gets to fight there are best.

Man with the Iron Heart was a very powerful book, brutal though, very brutal; this one is more of a regular war novel as I read quite a few

No Sven Hassel here though

Anonymous said...

5 0f my pals won a snowman contest loiked the plot-glad to czech(democracy) protected and swinging:and japan attack stalin instead of pearl

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